Garmin GPS devices and following a .gpx route

I've been using a Garmin – an eTrex Legend HcX – since 2012. It allows me to record the rides I do and – in theory – to follow a track I have transferred to my device, although it doesn't allow me to share my rides to our East Yorkshire CTC Strava Club. Anyway, for the 90th Anniversary Rides Mal and I put together .gpx files based on the route sheets we had downloaded. It's not always a straightforward matter if you haven't ridden the route yourself…

Chris from Cottingham Road Club (CRC) had kindly made an attempt on the 90-mile route of our 90th Anniversary Rides and I had been sent his version. This wasn't quite right, apparently, but I was in and out of Hull Women and Children's maternity ward and so was a bit too reoccupied to sort it out. In my previous attempt I hadn't been able to match the route – I lost my way after the Normanby Hall coffee stop – and so Mal came to the rescue. However, I think he had got mixed up on the 90 mile route (at least one rider reckoned his Garmin was trying to send him through a field after Normanby – unless he was following Chris's route. Oh, I don't know).

I was unfit and pushed for time so had planned to ride the 35-mile route. I took a friend on the back of my tandem. Partly in case she didn't help out by reading out the route to me (she didn't) I had plotted this shortest route on But Garmin Mapsource would not recognise the downloaded .gpx files, so I uploaded them to, downloaded them and transferred to Mapsource. Still with me? Anyway, dear reader it worked. Ah, but some Garmin devices cannot handle more than 500 track points so I had to make sure all routes were 'filtered' to few than 500 track points.

Ulceby Truck Stop 640px

Refuelling at Ulceby Truck Stop. What? I don't get out much

Oh, and as some stretches of the 35-mile route were shared on the way to and from Ulceby truck stop I created separate outbound and inbound tracks, remembering something Dave W had told me about how Garmin devices can get a bit confused when you want to be on the same piece of tarmac twice on the same day. Now, Claire from Sunday Girls Road Club had her new Garmin 520, but hadn't got round to downloading the 35-mile route. One of her club mates – she would later tell me – had downloaded the route, but her GPS device was telling her to make a U-turn more than once. I think it was because she had downloaded the full route they were riding along part of the course that they were meant to ride later in the day in the opposite direction. Looks like Dave W knew what he was talking about. However did we manage in the olden days, eh?

Sunday Girls Road Club 640px

A strong turnout from the Sunday Girls Road club on our 35-mile route

My ride? Well, with 35-mile outbound and inbound routes separately downloaded to my device what could possibly go wrong?

Er, quite a bit as it turned out. Probably because I won't pay the extra for downloadable OS maps I make do with the vector maps that came free with the Garmin eTrex.

Basically, that means trying to follow an arrow along a 'bread crumb' route on the display. We clocked up just short of 35 miles – the longest ride my stoker had done – having overshot at least four junctions.

Read the entertaining ride report from Cottingham Road Club's Alan Clough. (Alan is getting ready for Ride London and would welcome any donations you could make in aid of the Alzheimers Research UK.) Some of the language is perhaps a bit salty for delicate readers, but it is well worth a look, especially as somewhere along the line half a decade got knocked off Dudley's age 🙂

2 Responses to “Garmin GPS devices and following a .gpx route”

  1. francis brogden wrote:

    Tried to follow the 90 mile route on the Garmin but shortly after South Ferriby it wasn't happy and was of no use. Luckily we were in a group that seemed confident in it's map reading.

  2. ChrisB wrote:

    That's interesting. I only spotted a potential problem after Normanby.

    What did you do? Download the .gpx I created based on Mal's route or go straight to Garmin Connect and send his route to your Garmin device? Or did you use the one Chris H had created?

    The usual suspects have ridden that route as part of a 100-miler so they know it pretty well.